JOHANNESBURG – SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler insists that having to travel to Tunisia for the second leg of their CAF Confederation Cup semi-final against Club Africain in three weeks’ time without having beaten them here at home today could be catastrophic.
“That is what happened to us twice while I was at Orlando Pirates,” said the coach as he recalled how the Buccaneers fell at the last hurdle against Al Ahly in the 2013 Champions League when he was the assistant coach to Roger de Sa, and then two years later in the Confederation Cup against Etoile du Sahel when he’d been elevated to head coach.
“Both times we travelled we still had to attack those teams. That didn’t help. We were caught in situations that we had actually planned for, but could not prevent them.
“In Egypt against Al Ahly we were hurt by a free-kick and then away to Etoile were caught by a counter-attack.
“I think we played with fear. At home we were so focused on not conceding, but that is irrelevant if you don’t win the game because when you go there you are forced to come out.”
Tinkler was reflecting on his time at Pirates as he edges closer to yet another continental final with SuperSport having to negotiate their way past Club Africain, who are known poor travellers, at Lucas Moripe Stadium today (3pm).
“I hope to have learnt my lessons, obviously,” said Tinkler.
“When you play at home you have to dictate proceedings and that is our strength as a team. We need to show that and not concentrate too much on not conceding.
Of course, a 1-0 or 2-0 or even a 3-0 scoreline would be brilliant, but what is important is that we need to have won the game when we go there.”
While Club Africain’s poor record on the road certainly amps up SuperSport’s confidence, Tinkler called on his charges to be even more efficient.
“Those statistics don’t matter,” the coach said.
“This is a massive game for us and obviously one that we know is going to be difficult because the opposition gets better the further you go into the competition.
“We know they are not great travellers, but the intensity of their game is different at home. Maybe it’s because of the motivation from their fan base.
“But I think they are struggling in their domestic league as well because they have obviously put more focus on the Confederation Cup.
“My experience is that if you go to north African countries without having won your home leg, it is not going to be an easy task.”
Although SuperSport have already reached a milestone by reaching the semi-finals, Tinkler also cooled down talks of it being an achievement.
“This is an ambitious club, but if we don’t win this cup it all means nothing,” he said.
“The motivation for the players is to go all the way and be legends of this club by winning it. That is how they will remain in the legacy of the club.”